Thursday, October 6, 2011

All Sorts of Trophies

I have recently been in the process of gutting my house.  Getting rid of the superfluous.  Ditching the things that don't matter but are taking up space in my home and my life.

Last week I focused on the living room. 

I know some people have big homes and the living room is kept nice and rarely used.  That's not us.  We live in a relatively small home, the living room is the first room you walk into when you enter the house, and it's where we live.  It's where we congregate.  It's where we hang out.

And, when I got sick, it started to stack up.

Every horizontal surface was covered with stuff.  Boxes of things were stacked in corners.  It was a dizzying array of our lives on full display for everyone who walked into the room.

Most of it was easy to deal with; it just took time.  Throw it away.  Put it away.  Anyone know what this is?

But there were other things that were tougher.  One category that I've struggled with is trophies.

In our living room there were 28 trophies, 33 medals, and 1commemorative pin.  None of them belonged to me.  Or my husband.  They are our children's.  They are for softball, baseball, basketball, soccer, wrestling, track, piano, band, choir, math, writing, and art.  And there are more in some of my kids' rooms.

There are just so many.  And they serve no purpose.  Or do they?

I asked my kids if they wanted to keep them.  They each said they did.  I told them they'd have to make room for them in their rooms.  They said they'd think about it.  I ended up putting them all in a box in storage.  Maybe after they've been out of sight for a while they will decide they don't need them.

And I asked myself why they are so desirable.

When I coached there were times we bought trophies for the kids.  They cost about four dollars each.  They usually have a solid base and incredibly cheap plastic moldings of some sort on top.  They also usually have a nameplate of some kind.  They are pretty, but whittled down to their basic materials they aren't really worth much.

They have value because of what they represent.  Trophies represent a victory, like the trophy of a hunt.  They say, "Look at this cool thing I did!"  And through this they say that at one time we were great, maybe the best.

And I think that's why we hold onto them.  We all have moments when we doubt our worth.  But we can look at these and see that there are (or were) things we are good at.

And there are all sorts of trophies.  I think that's often what the big, beautiful library is.  It shows that we read all those books.  That we conquered.  That we are of value.  Or the trophy wife which shows that a man was chosen as superior to other men.  Or the trophy car.  The trophy home.  The trophy title.

There are so many trophies in our lives.  Why do we want them?  Why do we keep them?  Isn't knowing that we won enough?

When my kids ask, "What do I get if I win?" and I say "bragging rights" or "the knowledge that you won" it doesn't always cut it.  The world seems to ask, "Why is it worth working hard if I don't have a prize to show for it?"

But I'm going to keep trying.  I'm going to keep teaching that even when the thing that marks the accomplishment is gone, the accomplishment isn't.  That doing great things is shown in the people we become, not a cheap piece of plastic.  That many friends and a life you can be proud of are the best trophy.


Rubye Jack said...

We humans do love competition, but I also think trophies are a form of validation, saying you did a great job. If man gets a young beautiful wife, it shows the other guys how virile he is. Same with Blog awards. They say someone has noticed me. The thing is after you are noticed a couple of times, or win a few times, you should be able to accept you are special without the trophies and awards. Hopefully.

Jessica Grosland said...

The Honest Truth: When I read the first couple of paragraphs in this post, my heart froze for a moment as I thought, "Oh no! Mom went and threw away all my trophies! NOOOOO!!!"

Then it turned out you didn't throw them away, and I was very relieved. I read the rest of your post, waiting for the words that showed you'd come to understand the importance of trophies and why they are worth keeping around. But you didn't say that. You said that trophies are not necessary and maybe someday your kids will grow up enough to realize that and get rid of them.

"Hmph," I thought. "Well, that's discouraging."

I considered arguing with you. Then I considered reconsidering my position on trophies. Then I decided:

I am still young. I don't have to decide if having "trophies" is ethically correct; I just have to decide what to do with mine. And I want to keep them, so I shall.

I am happy with this decision, and it doesn't matter if any of your readers are; they're not me.

You can shake your head in exasperation if you will, lecturing me about the uselessness of trophies, but I don't think you will. I think you'll just be happy that I'm happy, and wait for me to grow up. You know I'm smart enough to figure it all out in time. And if not. . .

Well, at least they'll be at my house and not yours. :)

Dawnelle said...

Too frequently many of us are put down for not being enough--not good enough at this, not attractive enough, not good enough at that. I say sometimes you need that concrete knowledge that you were/are enough. I don't say that a trophy car or a trophy wife are ethically correct, but if you can get the same feeling from a trophy, hold on to it. Keep it until you don't need it. Maybe it needs to go into storage, but in later years one of your children might need this physical reminder that they are of value. And if they have it and feel it, thank goodness you didn't throw it away.

I have two boxes of my precious memories from my youth and childhood. The items in them remind me of my value, of who I am and where I came from, of my dreams and where I really want to be going. Two boxes not 10. :)

all.things.fadra said...

My big beautiful house is full of stuff. And sometimes all those things feel suffocating. We're always on a mission not only to de-clutter but to just clear away some of the stuff. It's a process.

Any of my "accomplishments" are boxed up in the attic. They meant something at the time. Now they are just faded memories. I still like having them. I just don't need them on display.

Katy said...

Go Robin! You keep at it. Your message is a good one! I remember when I got married and my mom presented me with a box of trophies from my teen years. I decided not to keep them, but it was kind of hard -- almost like I was saying they weren't important. I like how you flesh out those feelings. I still have pictures of those trophies and the memories of them, but nowadays mostly I treaure "friends and a life you can be proud of." I like, too, though, how you recognized the need of your children and kept their trophies for them. I'm glad I had mine while I was a teen. (And a young college student @Jessica!)

Mama Up! said...

It took me a long time to learn this, and not just for trophies. Mementos, too, and cards, and other sentimental things. I think I'm finally at the point where I believe I still will have my memories and my happy feelings even when the stuff is gone.

Melissa said...

What a great lesson to teach them. The physical reminders are important, but the senses of accomplishment and confidence are what you hope your kids take away from all of of the victories those trophies represent.